Despite what you may have read elsewhere, Charlotte is very much a basketball city.
Though the Bobcats have been consistently in the basement of the league in terms of drawing power, Charlotte's NBA franchise has battled the trifecta of bad ownership, barely any television exposure, and the poisonous environment that former Hornets owner George Shinn caused when he ripped the team out of the Carolinas.
Yet, the Bobcats have become a threat to crack the playoffs over the past few years, actually qualifying in 2010 before getting swept by the Magic. Today, the Bobcats are showing signs of life against teams like the Celtics and Lakers, but they're still not quite where they need to be.
So, in keeping with the trend of writers making bold trade predictions to mark the rapidly approaching trade deadline, we're using the Charlotte Bobcats for a little experiment.
We're going to turn the Bobcats from a one-and-done team into a sleeper for a prolonged run in the Eastern Conference.
Trade No. 1
Our first order of business is to improve the team offensively.
Out of all the potential playoff teams, Charlotte has a couple of expiring contracts that may entice some teams to bite; perhaps, even a team like the Phoenix Suns.
It's no secret that Steve Nash is a potential player on the move before next week's deadline. If Phoenix wants to sell on Nash while the iron's hot, then a deal to Charlotte may not be as unrealistic as you might think.
In our proposed deal, Charlotte would deal Nazr Mohammed, Boris Diaw, and Kwame Brown to the Phoenix Suns in exchange for Steve Nash and Channing Frye. The Suns would also receive the Bobcats' 2011 first-round pick and a future protected first-round pick.
For the Suns, the benefit of picking up $16.7 million in expiring contracts and nabbing two first-round picks will be instrumental in rebuilding the club following the end of the Nash Era. Charlotte meanwhile, picks up one of the most legendary point guards of all time, and a true offensive weapon to spark their effectiveness on offense.
The added benefit here is that the Bobcats don't have to give up any of their blue-chippers (Augustin, Henderson), giving them huge depth in the back court. Channing Frye would take over for Nazr Mohammed at center and would give the Bobcats younger legs underneath.
In its own way, adding Nash alongside Stephen Jackson and Gerald Wallace makes Charlotte a very tough first round out and may even secure the Bobcats a trip to the second round, provided the pieces gel well together.
Trade No. 2
But with the loss of Boris Diaw and Nazr Mohammed, the Bobcats would need a bit more size on the interior to get the job done in the Playoffs.
That's why a second trade would need to be initiated—a very painful one, in fact, for longtime fans of the franchise.
Hooking up with the struggling Utah Jazz, Charlotte would unload Gerald Wallace and his hefty contract along with Dominic McGuire and a second round draft pick in 2011 for the rights to Paul Millsap and Raja Bell.
Despite losing the defense of Wallace, the Bobcats would be picking up a better offensive threat in Millsap who's played more consistently this year than Wallace. You maintain your rebounds with Millsap as well, who's a bit younger and has a more palatable contract. Raja Bell also gives you a streaky shooter that works well with Nash's run-n-gun offense.
For the Bobcats, making these moves could easily add seven to 10 wins to their schedule, which can make a huge difference in the Eastern Conference.
As it stands now, the team is a potential eighth seed, assuming they can make it in at all. If the pieces gel, 10 additional wins may bump them to a sixth, or even a fifth seed.
What's the ceiling for our fantasy Bobcats team?
It doesn't matter who you are. Playing Chicago or Atlanta would be better than playing a Miami or Boston.
Upsides and Downsides
These two trades would energize Charlotte, giving the franchise its first true marquee name in Nash and would provide a lot of offense for their run in the Eastern Conference.
The moves would give Charlotte the option of running a front court of Channing Frye, Paul Millsap, and Tyrus Thomas while bringing in the vastly improved DeSagana Diop off the bench, along with Derrick Brown.
Steve Nash and Stephen Jackson would provide a unique dynamic in the back court, with D.J. Augustin becoming a capable point guard off the bench. With Matt Carroll, Raja Bell, and Gerald Henderson coming off the bench, Charlotte would have a lot of offensive firepower.
Are there any downsides? Losing the size of Mohammed and Diaw hurts a bit, especially when considering teams like Boston and Orlando that have a great interior presence. The move isn't likely to push Charlotte into the Eastern Conference Finals, let alone give them a chance for a title.
But the upside will be there for the team, no doubt about it.
The moves would make the Bobcats relevant in Charlotte, especially with the Panthers in a rebuilding process and the Knights still stuck in Fort Mill. Meeting up in the second round with a Boston or Miami would be a huge step up for the franchise.
In the end, it comes down to one simple question: Is it worth altering the landscape of the team for Nash and a more explosive offense? You had better believe it.